IT is all steam ahead for Dudley Canal Trust after its £3.3 million visitor centre is given the go-ahead for the entrance of Dudley’s 200 year-old limestone mines.

Dudley councillors praised the Trust’s “fantastic” design and unanimously approved the application, which will see the most up-to-date canal education and industrial heritage centre in the UK built at the site off Birmingham New Road.

Councillor Kieran Casey, said: “It is fantastic to see what a big improvement it can make. It is another great project for Dudley.”

The two-storey building, to be known as The Portal, will include a reception, office space, educational area, cafe, shop and a kitchen and workshop.

Funding is currently being considered by the Heritage Lottery Fund for the first stage in the development, which will include the building of the hub, with a decision expected in the next few months.

It is expected construction work will begin in the autumn, with completion next year.

As part of the application a swing bridge will also enable visitors from the Black Country Living Museum on the opposite side of the canal to access the boat trips and ticket office.

A second development phase will include landscaping and car parking improvements at a later date.

The project has been welcomed by the Chairman of the Canal River Trust’s West Midlands Waterways Partnership, Peter Mathews.

Mr Matthews said: “This project will provide the nation’s inland waterways network with the finest state-of-the-art industrial waterway heritage centre. The Black Country and Birmingham canals played a major role as the Industrial Revolution gained pace and helped make the UK a world industrial power. This project will be absolutely essential in promoting the area’s unique industrial heritage.”